Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Ian Cross

Ian Cross. E. H. McCormick refers to the publication of Owls Do Cry as "explosive"; the same year 1957, however, witnessed another explosion, that made by Ian Cross's The God Boy. This had a notable success in the United States before it reached here. Ian Cross comes from Wanganui, began his career as a journalist on the Dominion, managed a banana plantation on the border of Panama and Costa Rica, edited a newspaper in Panama City, and on his return to New Zealand moved from journalism into work with the Police and Justice Departments. Under the Nieman Fellowship awarded to a New Zealand journalist he studied at Harvard University, where The God Boy first began to take shape. Clearly it has affiliations with American literature about teenage problem children. Equally clearly, it is not an imitation, but something of our own, something homegrown, related like Owls Do Cry to that world of man, woman and child which Robin Hyde knew was the true stuff of literature.

The novel is set in Raggleton, recognisably a North Island coastal town, and narrates the story of the eleven-year-old Jimmy Sullivan, a tough little Catholic, prepared when fate takes its cruel turn to do battle even with God. For God "put one across him" in the disastrous three days before the adult world sent him to the convent for refuge. But Jimmy survives ... "I don't care what else God is going to try on me, but whatever it is, he had better watch his step".

"I don't care" is almost a refrain, highlighting ironically Jimmy's "care" and anguish, the deep unhealing wound which he is anxious to hide, just as he hides his hurt when he is punished at school. The reader, too, "cares", being left with that sense of human endurance which is the basis of tragedy.